Instructor of Biology
email@example.com | 73 Klamath Hall
ACADEMIC AREAS: Terrestrial Vegetation Dynamics, Climate Change, Dendroecology, Vegetation Modeling
Teaching science was my first professional passion, my first professional goal, and my first real job. I have pursued this goal for my entire adult life. I use a variety of active learning techniques (e.g., think-pair-share, gallery walks) to engage with students from diverse backgrounds, and authentic assessment (e.g., assertion-reasoning questions, project-based learning) to ensure that my students achieve knowledge and cognitive abilities that are deep and durable. I choose to teach because (with apologies to Stephen Pepper), unfortunately, there is no way of overcoming ignorance and the many problematic ways ignorance manifests itself in society, but through more knowledge.
Ph.D., Biology, University of Oregon, 2012
B.A./B.S., Biology, Northwestern University, 2003
Research Interests & Current Projects
Ecosystems, Fire, Climate, and People
Three related questions drive my research:
- What have been the relative influences of environmental factors, interspecific competition, climate, and people on ecological communities?
- How will these influences change in the future as climate and human activities change, locally and globally?
- What management responses facilitate desirable changes or attenuate adverse changes?
I use paleo-historical, anthropological, and modern observations (measurements of fuels, plant communities, and tree-rings), combined with computer simulation modeling to answer these research questions.
Oak savanna was once widespread throughout the Willamette Valley and Puget Trough in the Pacific Northwest, but changes in land use and disturbance regimes have degraded or destroyed most of that habitat. I identified how this ecosystem developed in the past, assessed its potential fire behavior, and then built computer modeling software to see how climate change and human land management could affect this ecosystem in the future. My new vegetation model allows for projections of successional dynamics that are sensitive to changes in climate, fire regimes, and human land-use and land-management decisions. Environmental variables (e.g., topography, soils) have complex and nuanced influences on successional trajectories and potential fire behavior across a wide range of climate and disturbance scenarios.
Utilizing the best fire science in land use and management decision-making requires unifying records of fire activity, contemporary observations, and future projections under a wide variety of climate and land-use scenarios; my current research does this for Cradle Mountain National Park, Tasmania, Australia. In these locations, we employ three different types of evidence. Sedimentary pollen and charcoal records allow us to reconstruct millennial-scale fire and vegetation history at a coarse temporal grain. Tree-ring records allow us to reconstruct fire and vegetation history at a finer temporal grain. FireBGCv2 – and ecological process model – can then simulate fire and vegetation dynamics under a variety of future scenarios. Expected climate changes are unlikely to recreate disturbance regimes similar to anthropogenic disturbance prior to the arrival of European settlers. Future climate will be beneficial to threatened moorland ecosystems, but will likely be extremely detrimental to critically imperiled rainforest ecosystems.